Each year, untold numbers of migrants disappear in the borderlands after being pushed into dangerous and remote terrain by Border Patrol, the same agency that is then tasked with responding to migrants’ search and rescue emergencies. A new report released Wednesday found that the federal agency does not respond to 40% of these emergency calls. In a series of reports published over the course of five years, the southern Arizona organizations No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos have cataloged and reported the specific Border Patrol policies and tactics that have fueled a crisis of death and disappearance in the borderlands. The first report, released in 2016, detailed the 1994 Border Patrol policy “Prevention Through Deterrence” in which the United States militarized urban border areas in an effort to steer migrants away from ports of entry and into geographically harsher and more remote and hazardous regions, leading to their deaths. The second report, published in 2018, detailed Border Patrol’s practice of destroying life-saving humanitarian aid left by volunteers for migrants.
Part three in the series published Wednesday—Left to Die: Border Patrol, Search and Rescue, and the Crisis of Disappearance—details how when 911 response systems receive calls from people crossing into the United States without authorization, they transfer those calls away from local emergency services and to Border Patrol, an agency that for decades has failed to provide life-saving assistance to undocumented immigrants who are lost and dying.